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The Returned: ‘Simon’ – Series 1, episode 2

Samuel Breen
The Returned 00098 300x199 The Returned: Simon   Series 1, episode 2

(Channel 4)

Fragility of life looms large over an episode that closes with the scarring on Julie’s stomach. While the barmaid is offscreen battling for her life in hospital, Camille is struggling to deal with the nature of her existence.

Simon is supposedly the focus of the episode given that his name serves as the title. With his big thick eyebrows, messy hair and creased white collar he is the picture of a libertine – his hair still ruffled from Adèle’s hands running through it.

On the morning of their marriage the couple are up through the night embracing each other, for which Simon channels Warren Zevon, “We’ll sleep when we’re dead” as Spiritualized plays in the background. The reason for his disappearance is kept from us, but between Zevon, Spiritualized, and the Lou Reed-styled band he played in, I’m left wondering if the key to his disappearance is heroin but I could be wrong.

In the revenants there’s a spectrum from the showing of love and emotional need to brutal violence and murder. While Camille performs the former and the taxidermist’s son the latter, Simon is caught between the two. He is found glassing a barman in the face before laying into the wounded worker with his fists. Brilliantly it’s a subtle joke about currency that prompts the violence. When Simon presents Francs, “What can I get with this?” he asks, “P**s off,” is the reply, channelling frustrations that the changeover in currency brought, notably inflation.

Simon’s actions are causing deep psychological torment for Adèle who is being denied his full permanence. There is something quite theatrical to banging on the door to the house, asking to be let in and disappearing when others arrive, which suits his showman persona. His actions culminate with the priest remarking, “I believe that people we have loved continue to live within us,” and, “It’s very important to be at peace with ghosts.” It’s a moment in which I want the idea of ghost to be presented with greater permanence and Heideggerian rationalisation. Alas the liberal priest is not prepared to stray any further, and maintains an air of holiness. It is this refrain that runs through the episode, creating tension and culminating in the police captain holding back information from Adèle, sparing her more grief.

The psychological drama finds itself consuming Camille and her family who are struggling to come to terms with it all. What the Camille plot turns up is far more engaging that anything Simon’s character can produce. When it becomes fleshed out – if you excuse the pun – is the idea that existence is more than a heartbeat, it is our sense of place in the world.

Léna screams “You don’t exist” at her twin who is trying to deal with the ethereal nature of her presence. While Lucho an old friend of Camille no longer recognises her. Here we are presented with the psychological torture of living in this liminal space, part of who we are is made up in the thoughts and minds of those around us. It’s a heavily romantic and nuanced position to maintain and in Camille it is done well.

While reality melts around the family, as a soap opera of trauma ensues, it seems remarkably tidy that the father would move back home. The idea that her death split the family is poetically structured if not slightly predictable. I hope the rebuilding of the marriage is more turbulent than this, which seems fairly tranquil against everything else going on domestically, captured in the destruction of Léna’s bedroom.

The other exciting strand is that this is not the first time revenants have come to town. Here the signposts are delightfully shrouded in context. Pierre tells Camille that it isn’t the first time this has happened, but it’s hard to know whether Pierre is just offering comfort and reassurance to a vulnerable child. The other moment is the priest telling Adèle that an old woman experienced her husband returning. But like the old man last week, the mystery is masked by notions of senility. In such strong examples of how we can come to accept revenants, we are offered a certitude that real life sometimes can’t – in a nutshell it’s fantasy at its best.

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  • molesey_,mole

    .

    As the French are notoriously stereotyped as pseudo-intellectuals is part of the show’s success the turning of rational reviewers also into pseudo-philosophers ?

    The idea that such ideas can overwhelm how people would (?) react to “revenants” both emotionally and within society is silly.

    The idea that no one has picked up a phone and told friends, relatives, the police or the press is possibly the most amazing aspect of the programmes so far.

    As for the behaviour of the doctor with Adele and the Police with Simon – we can possibly think that the whole village has died and gone to fantasy land.

    Best thought of as inhabiting the same universe as “Lost” – where trying to fathom what the scriptwriters are going to do next is more sensible than believing in the plot.

    .A wasted effort.

  • samuelbreen

    Yeah, you’re right. The show has found me in cocktail philosophy territory. Better than being brainless, I suppose, but not great. Apologies for that. At this stage there’s a lot more suggestion than execution so it’s tricky to follow through on the ideas it presents.

    I knew referencing Heidegger was pretentious when I wrote it, me falling back on old philosophies, but I feel the priest’s restraint from taking his outlook further is part of the characterisation. There is a knowingness built into the character. He talks of “phantôme” not “espirit” so his language suggests he holds academia above dogmatism.

  • Emily Thorne

    wtf?
    sorry, but i gave up on this review about half-way through for its impenetrable pretentiousness and ludicrous claims of the attachment of meaning to various happenings nearly equalling that of the show..

  • sweetalkinguy

    He was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table.

    Unto the Victor belong the spoils.

  • Julie Blackadder

    this review is gobbledegook.

  • Mark Woolley

    Mogwai, not Spiritualized.

  • Emily Thorne

    good point about the phoning-why is that?
    & there are no mobiles, are there?

  • Emily Thorne

    “But, like the old man last week, the mystery is masked in notions of senility”
    does he mean Costa? he didn’t seem particularly senile to me?

    but who knew senility could go around masking things with it’s very notions?….


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